Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes devs on origins, Byleth, Shez, weapon triangle, more
Creating each character’s unique skill set
One of the main features of the game is that every character can choose any class. Am I right that each character’s personality comes through with the skills they have?
Iwata: Yes, that’s correct. Each character’s actions are fundamentally determined by their class. Since every character can choose any class, this weakens the individuality of each character in an action game. Considering how strong the presence of each character in this game is, we still wanted a way for each of them to be special. To compensate for this, we decided to include unique skills for each character. During development, the rule of thumb was to always consider each character’s traits and background. We never tried to put anything that seemed off or misaligned to the character’s aesthetics. Our team worked together tirelessly to come up with ideas and implement them into the game.
Suzuki: Every now and then there’d be misunderstandings between team members, too (laughs).
Iwata: “There is no way this character would act like this!” and many other arguments in that vein took place, but it was really fulfilling and surprisingly fun to come up with.
With the game having so many playable characters, and many classes to choose from on top of that, was it hard to balance the game?
Iwata: It was a very difficult task to balance the game, and it was the thing that took the most time during development. We knew going in it would be tough, especially when you consider all the variables such as skills and classes. On top of that, we also had to keep these elements intact while creating an action game. The tension loosened between team members across our brainstorming sessions, which resulted in skills getting stronger and stronger (laughs).
So you added more variation and variety to the game, which results in characters getting more and more powerful (laughs).
Iwata: Exactly. Even when we looked back after creating all the skills, someone would always comment about a skill being too bland or not fit for the game. This resulted in more brainstorming sessions, and the loop would never end (laughs). As difficult as it was, it was worth it. I would like to think that because of hard work from the entire team, this made each character stand out. I really think players will feel it for themselves when they play with their favorite character.
Suzuki: Our main concept during development was ‘1,000 ways to play and dominate’. Although every character can choose any class, they each have a different gameplay feel. The difference between each variation is a hidden concept we worked hard on, and we hope players will find the differences as they play.
Lorenz were among the standout characters in the game. I was impressed by the spinning rose petals everywhere (laughs).
Suzuki: We considered that a must (laughs). The ability itself is also very powerful.
Iwata: Bernadetta can also create an area to escape, which is the type of thing you’d expect her to do.
Did you play around with any characters during development, Mr. Hayashi?
Hayashi: I tried a few, but as we said before, they changed considerably during development. There were times where I questioned what happened to a character because they had changed so drastically since its previous iteration. For that reason, I’m also looking forward to playing the final version (laughs).
Suzuki: Without that development loop, the game would be completely unbalanced. It was a never ending cycle of adding suggestions and trying to polish them, which resulted in something full of personality.
Hayashi: Having said that, the ‘1,000 ways to play and dominate’ concept, as well as being able to level up characters to player preference, was core to the game, and we were determined to allow players to have that level of freedom and avoid restricting the gameplay.
Iwata: Freedom in character creation is a key feature of the series, and we thought it should be something that stays.
Since the game’s reveal, it was easy to predict that the game would have a lot of playable characters (laughs). As much as we wanted all the classmates to be in the game, what did the team think?
Hayashi: We tried not to run away from that idea (laughs). That idea was talked about since the launch of the project.
Suzuki: It was always framed as how we could develop that idea, never to remove it.
Hayashi: We thought about presenting each character in a video, one by one, to make the audience guess who might not make it in.
Suzuki: Looking at the reactions on social media, we felt like we hadn’t earned that much trust (laughs).
The reasoning behind adding weapon compatibility – for the enjoyment of Warriors
There was no weapon triangle in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Why did you decide to put it in this game?
Iwata: In the original Fire Emblem Warriors, one of the key features of the game was opening the map to see what was happening in different areas, then giving commands to your allies. We wanted to enhance this concept by adding the weapon triangle in while giving command. If an enemy approaches with an axe, soldiers with swords would be a better option. We thought that simple visual cues make for better choices and gameplay. Although not in the original game (Three Houses) the ideas of weapon efficacy and compatibility did exist in the Fire Emblem series, and we thought players should be able to understand the concept fairly easily as it is not an entirely new concept to them.
There is also weapon triangle of bows, tomes, and gauntlets.
Iwata: We originally gave each class a single weapon and decided what weapons would be effective against what based on that, but we ultimately went with the weapon triangles.
Hayashi: We didn’t use that system in the beginning and felt that the gameplay wasn’t as interesting. The point here was to keep the system that was popular in Fire Emblem Warriors while adding some new features from Three Houses. When compared to the last Fire Emblem Warriors, this game places more emphasis on simulation and tactical strategy. We wanted the gameplay to be more thoughtful and have players enjoy commanding the units.
Iwata: In the last Fire Emblem Warriors the characters were linked to their weapons, and it was natural to lead into the idea that a character = their weapon in that game. It did limit the player in some way, as it restricted which characters they could use. On the other hand, this time around because those things are decided with classes, and players can choose characters more freely.
In this game, would the cavalier’s main role be fighting units it’s effective against?
Iwata: Yes, that’s the case. To encourage players to be more strategic, we made it so they had to think about weapon types before heading into battle. Cavaliers were impacted by this idea as a result. Like we were saying around limiting players on choice, this was our way of trying to remove some of those restrictions; by placing cavaliers around to overcome disadvantages with their weapon type.
That makes sense. I remember I wanted to have lots of healers while playing, but I knew they would have to face lots of enemies who were favorable against them… so I placed in a cavalier to counter this.
Iwata: That’s certainly one way out of that situation.
Creating a new genre, unrestricted by existing ones
When compared to the last Fire Emblem Warriors, this game feels as if it has more simulation aspects. I’d like to ask you more about the Camp and Facilities in the game.
Iwata: One of the key components in Three Houses was exploring the monastery. During exploration, you were able to strengthen your characters and see how they interacted with each other. At the start of development, we definitely wanted this feature to be a part of the game. This system allows the players to be more immersed in the game. There was never a system like this in other Warriors games and it would make it similar to Three Houses despite being a completely different kind of game.
Why did you decide to add simulation elements like expanding and upgrading the facilities to the base?
Iwata: We wanted each player to have a unique experience depending on their playstyle. In fact, if you expand the base without really putting any thought into it, you cannot completely upgrade base on the first run of the game. It’s up to the player what part of the base they would want to prioritize. In the end, this creates a unique experience for all players.
Iwata: The materials required to expand the facilities come by exploring some of the sub areas. It also creates variety in gameplay through player choice. Do they want to conquer a specific area to improve a facility? or do the bare minimum to progress the game? and so on.
The more I hear about this game, it sounds less like a Warriors game and more like a simulation game instead (laughs).
Hayashi: We’ve barely talked about the action at all (laughs).
Warriors games are your bread and butter, so was it hard developing a game with lots of simulation aspects?
Suzuki: Firstly, we had more staff taking on parts that weren’t related to the action. I think the percentage of our staff actually involved in the action component is the smallest it has been amongst our Warriors titles (laughs).
Iwata: It’s not a game where you only need to balance certain elements like the action or battle system. It ended up being very difficult to achieve an overall balance, so it was a different kind of challenge to making other Warriors games.
Suzuki: Like making an RPG, we considered the balance of the game in the beginning, mid game, and late game. We adjusted the game thoroughly, thinking about how much players would progress at different stages of the game.
Hayashi: Warriors games often fall into the “tactical action” genre, but I feel that this game is much more than that. I would like to propose this game as part of the new ‘Simulation Role Playing Tactical Action’ genre (laughs). I know this game puts Fire Emblem and Warriors together, but I feel this name hits it spot on. It didn’t go over too well in the office because it was too long (laughs).
Suzuki: It’s definitely too long (laughs).
Hayashi: Looking back, Hyrule Warriors was definitely a tactical action game as it had more emphasis on the action side. Whereas in Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes, I was eager to add new elements to the game to create a completely new genre. When I hear people say it doesn’t feel like an action game, but rather more of a simulation game, it makes me glad that I have accomplished some of my goals. I hope that this kind of game catches on (laughs).
It will be a difficult genre to remember with its long name.
Hayashi: I’m sure people who play the game will feel all the elements put together. It is like Three Houses, but also with Warriors gameplay on top. Having both together feels like a completely different game.
Iwata: It’s unlike any other game out there. If people come into this game blind, I’m sure they’ll be surprised at how different it is to other Warriors games.
Suzuki: This might also be the first Warriors game for some players.
Iwata: I think it’s a good way to betray players’ expectations.
Hayashi: I think anyone who likes simulation, role playing, or action games will enjoy it.
Not just in the facility, but for example the ability to be able to move directly to characters, and in lots of places in games like Fire Emblem: Three Houses and Fire Emblem Warriors we get the impression of the series evolving into an exciting and easier to play game. How did you decide which elements to proceed with?
Suzuki: The general plan of the game was to create a cycle of preparing your units, advancing on a map, and battling and repeating, but one condition was we wanted the gameplay loop to avoid stressing players. We talked and thought about actions that the player completes time and time again and questioned how we could reduce the stress in those situations. We realized, for example, you could reduce the stress in a player moving if they could fast travel directly in front of a character. We wanted to make systems that allowed the player to do what they needed to do when they needed to, and felt that would naturally improve the flow and thereby reduce stress.
Iwata: In terms of player convenience, too, the RPG elements, character development, and relationship systems had to be very carefully considered to think about what was necessary to put these in a game in a way that was easy to use and meaningful to the players. We had to think about what systems we wanted to continue from our previous works, and how we could alter and change them, fine tuning them to work best. The culmination of all of that is the system we have now. And as Suzuki said, in RPGs and in action games, we have to pay very close attention to the gameplay loop to allow the player to play without stress.
For sure, despite needing to come and go a lot from the base and map in order to develop the most suitable tactics, it was never a stressful experience.
Iwata: Absolutely! One of our concrete policies was working on making the player not pay attention to loading times. One way to do this was to give them something to do during those times. I like to think that there aren’t too many times in the game when you are simply waiting for something.
A game both Fire Emblem fans and Warriors fans can enjoy!
So to finish up today’s interview, do you have a message about something you want to play in the future, or a direction you have an interest in pursuing?
Iwata: This game was a culmination of putting together the essences of Fire Emblem, Three Houses, and Warriors and by building together those elements and finding a good balance we were able to create something new; the essence of Fire Emblem: Warriors Three Hopes. To completely finish everything in the game may take quite some time (laughs), but the contents are enjoyable right to the end, so we invite players not to give up and see it through to its conclusion.
Suzuki: For Fire Emblem: Three Hopes, we did inherit some of the great points of Fire Emblem: Three Houses and evolved some others, but a lot of input came from other sources, too. Nintendo and Intelligent Systems are proud to have worked with us to create ‘Another Three Houses’. I feel we were able to create a game that players who have enjoyed the series for many years will be pleased with, but also those without any Fire Emblem experience as well. After playing Three Hopes, I think players who also try Three Houses can enjoy a fresh experience, and should be able to see and recognize the great points in both.
Hayashi: For sure! I actually recently checked the sales of Three Houses on an online ranking site, and it was rising up the ranks, more so than Three Hopes actually!
Suzuki: Perhaps players are brushing up a little first? But we certainly invite players to enjoy both games.
Hayashi: As we already talked about earlier when discussing game genres, in Warriors games you can experience RPG and action elements in a ‘tactical’ way, which is what makes the games so popular. Historically the Warriors series has collaborated with many IPs and developed many characters. I like to think in the case of this game, we were working with Three Houses and had to have three companies working together and shedding their preconceived notions about the Warriors series. We developed something in a slightly different direction to the Warriors series up until now, something that had its own fresh value, and the staff really felt that. Of course we made something that would satisfy fans of Three Houses, but also we grasped the substance of the Warriors series and made a worthy and satisfying game in that genre, too. It’s not another long discussion about game genres, but the great thing about Warriors games is that exhilarating feeling of taking on a thousand enemies at once. We made sure to keep that essence while also adding in RPG elements and in doing so created something quite different to what came before. Please enjoy it!
Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes is now available on Switch.
Translation provided by Kim Louise Davis, Simon Griffin, centurionnugget, and Jarop on behalf of Nintendo Everything.
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